2018 champion Rose Zhang returns to the field as a Los Angeles Gateway City invitee.
Forty-eight of the most talented junior golfers from around the world have secured a dream ticket to compete at the ANA Junior Inspiration in hopes of earning an exemption into the LPGA’s first major championship of the season, the ANA Inspiration. The 54-hole junior tournament will be hosted from March 28-31, 2019, at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
ANA Junior Inspiration, organized in partnership between the American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) – Japan’s largest 5-star airline, will challenge 48 AJGA invitation-only golfers over 36 holes on the Pete Dye Challenge Course. During the final round, the juniors will compete on the Dinah Shore Tournament Course with 24 LPGA Legends. Each pairing will feature one legend and two juniors. Juniors will compete for an overall stroke-play title as well as participate in a fun competition among groups in a best-ball format with the legends.
“We are thrilled to welcome 48 young golfers, including 11 from our North American gateways, to the 2019 ANA Junior Inspiration. As the title sponsor of the ANA Inspiration and official airline of the LPGA, we’re proud to inspire young golfers and hold the first major of the golf season,” said Hideki Kunugi, Senior Vice President of the Americas, ANA. “As Japan’s largest airline, we are in the business of connecting people from around the world so we can’t wait to welcome this group of international players and propel their passion for golf over 54 holes. For ANA it is vital that our sponsorship leaves a lasting legacy and inspires the players to reach for their dreams in golf and beyond.”
About the ANA Junior Inspiration Field
The tournament field earned entry into the ANA Junior Inspiration through ANA Priority Mileage Points Standings, which are based on the Rolex AJGA Rankings. Top qualifiers from ANA’s 11 North American Gateway Cities of Chicago, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Mexico City, New York, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Vancouver and Washington D.C. will also compete. Each Gateway City Qualifier chose a state or local golf association to receive a Gateway City Grant on behalf of ANA. Since the event’s inception in 2017, $165,000 in ANA Gateway City Grants has funded 17 state and local golf organizations to help inspire young golfers and grow the sport.
The AJGA and ANA also extended invitations to seven international juniors from Belgium, China, England, France, Germany, Japan and South Korea. In total, representatives from 11 foreign countries and 11 U.S. states are set to compete at one of the LPGA’s most iconic venues.
The 2019 competition brings together one of the strongest fields in junior golf as four of the top seven girls in the Rolex AJGA Rankings will compete, including defending 2018 ANA Junior Inspiration champion and current No. 1, Rose Zhang of Irvine, Calif. After her jump into Poppie’s Pond with LPGA Legend Patty Sheehan, Zhang made the cut in her professional debut. The three-time Rolex Junior All-American won twice more during the season, at The PING Invitational and Swinging Skirts AJGA Invitational, the latter of which helped the 15-year-old earn a second LPGA exemption in Taiwan. She also finished third at the Rolex Girls Junior Championship and was runner-up at the Girls Junior PGA Championship.
Rachel Heck of Memphis, Tennessee, current No. 3 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings and high school junior, headlines the four amateurs who have already accepted an amateur invite into the ANA Inspiration. The 2017 Rolex Junior Player of the Year and 2017 ANA Junior Inspiration runner-up will be joined by three AJGA alumni and college golfers in the World Amateur Golf Rankings’ top five: Frida Kinhult of Fiskebackskil, Sweden (Florida State), 2016 Rolex Junior Player of the Year Patty Tavatanakit of (Thailand) Van Nuys, Calif. (UCLA), and Albane Valenzuela of Geneva, Switzerland (Stanford). The fifth, and final, exemption will be filled through the ANA Junior Inspiration.
Twenty-eight Rolex Junior All-Americans and 30 AJGA champions will compete at the 2019 ANA Junior Inspiration, including the recently-crowned Buick Shanshan Feng Girls Invitational champion Brianna Navarrosa of San Diego. Thirty-two juniors in the field have committed to play college golf.
“Playing in the ANA Junior Inspiration is an incredible opportunity for the top female junior golfers in the world,” said AJGA Executive Director Stephen Hamblin. “The AJGA is proud to continue its partnership with ANA to create a truly unique week that showcases the past, present and future of women’s golf. To compete for a major opportunity as a teenager, while also receiving mentorship from an LPGA Legend and impacting the next generation of girls, truly creates a legacy.”
The ANA Junior Inspiration is the only event of its kind in the world of junior golf and was created to help young careers take off and reach new heights. From the 2018 ANA Junior Inspiration, 13 of 14 graduating seniors in the field are currently playing college golf including New York Gateway City Grant recipient Kyra Cox of South Salem, New York. The two-time AJGA champion ended her junior career in the desert before beginning at Furman University.
“The staff and volunteers were amazing and made my time in Rancho Mirage something I will never forget,” Cox said. “Mission Hills is such a beautiful place to play golf and to play in those same conditions was very eye-opening for me. Playing with an LPGA legend and being able to pick their brain on information was a great learning experience. I didn’t play my best golf the final day, but the encouraging words from my LPGA legend Hollis Stacy helped me think positively about going into college.”
Prior to its association with the AJGA in 2017, the ANA Junior Inspiration operated as an 18-hole qualifier for Southern California-based juniors to earn a spot into the major championship field. The Southern California Golf Association (SCGA), Fresh & Easy and ANA Inspiration champion Amy Alcott worked together to lay the foundation for this game-changing girls’ tournament.
Past champions of the ANA Junior Inspiration include an AJGA all-star cast: Angel Yin (2013), Lilia Vu (2014), Haley Moore (2015) 2014 Rolex Junior Player of the Year Andrea Lee (2016), Lucy Li (2017) and Zhang (2018).
Sophia Bae, Norwood, N.J. (2021) NEW YORK
Anne Chen, (Australia) Sugar Land, Texas (2020) HOUSTON
Faith Choi, Frederick, Md. (2021) WASHINGTON D.C.
Megan Furtney, South Elgin, Ill. (2019) CHICAGO
Andrea Gomez, Huixquilucan, Mexico (2020) MEXICO CITY
Savannah Grewal, (Canada) Vancouver, British Columbia (2020) VANCOUVER
Brittany Kwon, Bremerton, Wash. (2019) SEATTLE
Kyung Eun Lee, Honolulu, Hawaii (2021) HONOLULU
Kaleiya Romero, San Jose, Calif. (2020) SAN JOSE
Ashely Shim, San Mateo, Calif. (2022) SAN FRANCISCO
Rose Zhang, Irvine, Calif. (2021) LOS ANGELES
For more information about the ANA Junior Inspiration, visit www.ANAjuniorinspiration.com.
About the ANA Inspiration
The ANA Inspiration is golf’s first major and one of the LPGA Tour’s most prestigious events. Previously known as the Kraft Nabisco Championship, the tournament was founded in 1972 by David Foster and Dinah Shore and earned the designation as a major championship in 1983. Contested at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., since its inception, the ANA Inspiration holds the distinction of being the second oldest golf tournament continuously held at the same course. For many, the event is most distinguished by one of golf’s most beloved traditions: the champion’s leap into Poppie’s Pond, located adjacent to the 18th green. In 1988, the first champion’s leap into Poppie’s Pond was taken by Amy Alcott, and since has become one of the most anticipated and memorable traditions in golf. For more information on the ANA Inspiration, please visit ANAinspiration.com or call 760-834-8872. On social media, visit facebook.com/ANAinspiration, twitter.com/ANAinspiration or instagram.com/ANAinspiration.